LOS ANGELES -- In what the team is describing as a "mutual" parting of ways, Danny Ferry is out as general manager and will be replaced by assistant GM Chris Grant.
After five years as GM, Ferry's contract was up and the team announced Friday that he and owner Dan Gilbert agreed not to renew it. The move comes as superstar LeBron James is about to become a free agent, with the prospect of him leaving the Cavs threatening to devastate the city and organization.
Welcome to the hot seat, Chris Grant.
Hired as GM two years after the Cavs drafted LeBron, Ferry spent much of that time establishing a winning culture and doing everything possible to appease James by surrounding him with talent the King regarded as championship caliber. Despite Ferry's efforts -- which included acquiring Mo Williams, Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison -- the Cavs never achieved the right mix. Williams never developed into the consistent No. 2 scoring threat, especially in the postseason; the O'Neal gamble backfired; and Jamison came up small in his first -- and possibly last -- postseason run with James.
With coach Mike Brown and now Ferry out, the fallout from Cleveland's surprising loss to the Celtics in the conference semifinals has been swift and far-reaching. All Grant has to do now is hire a coach, keep LeBron, and surround him with enough talent to win a championship. It's a pretty tall task; just ask Ferry.
And with the restless Gilbert calling the shots -- and no doubt watching LeBron's hour-long interview on the Larry King Show Friday night for clues as to what he'll decide come July 1 -- the Cavs' situation is in the ultimate state of flux. Speculation immediately focused on whether Gilbert had a power play in mind for a big name to take over as the Cavs' coach and president of basketball operations. The name most often linked to the Cavs, due to his relationship with James, is that of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who recently refuted the notion that he would leave Lexington for a return to the NBA.
With a coaching vacancy and the path cleared for Gilbert to lure a big name to replace Ferry, the Cavs are now on equal footing with other potential suitors for LeBron that also have an opening to hire the coach of his choice. On his CNN interview, which aired Friday night, James reiterated that he does not want to hand-pick his next coach, but made a point of saying that there are several coaches that would intrigue him. James also said he is "far from close" to making a decision.
Although Commissioner David Stern said Thursday night that he has been assured "at the highest levels" that there would be no so-called free-agent summit, James said in the interview with King that he does, in fact, plan to discuss his plans with other top free agents -- and that he was interested in learning their plans. According to James, top players getting together to decide where to play -- and with whom -- was an opportunity for them to determine how to "better the league."